There was much excitement in the Chrisparkle household at the prospect of seeing Jonathan Pie live on stage. We’ve loved his irascible, foul-mouthed diatribes against politicians of all ilks on his regular short viral videos. In these days, heaven knows we need some decent satire, and Mr Pie goes a long way to fill that gap. Lord and Lady Prosecco were excited too, as were my friends HRH the Crown Prince of Bedford, and the Squire of Sidcup, both of whom had travelled to witness the comic experience.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Mr Pie had a support act, in the form of JoJo Sutherland, a formidable lady with a firm grip on her audience and a string of strong material to back it up. She doesn’t pussyfoot around sensitive subjects; in fact, in order to check on whether her daughter is having sex or not she checks the extent of her downstairs depilation before she allows her out. She delivers with great attack and confidence, and the majority of her stuff is extremely funny. However, and nothing against Ms Sutherland, I wasn’t sure she was the right choice to support Jonathan Pie. Her material concentrates heavily on sex – and by no means in a prudish way – whereas you associate Mr Pie with political commentary, and I felt there was no crossover where an audience revved up for JP would be ready for Ms Sutherland’s down-and-dirty observations of life. And, given the fact that the Derngate auditorium was pretty packed, with at least a thousand people in there, I felt that the audience’s reaction was a trifle on the reserved side.
After a massively confused interval – where the ushers were suggesting we all go back into the auditorium because we didn’t break at the time they were expecting, and as a result no interval drinks were ready and we were all should we stay or should we go in our half-time dithering – we resumed our seats for Jonathan Pie. It’s called The Fake News Tour because – well, obviously really – there’s a lot of it about. However, I’m not sure fake news played that much of a part in his comedy lecture. And yes, it did feel like a lecture, which is no bad thing provided you’re flexible with everything you want to say.
Here’s the scenario: world-renowned political commentator and presenter linkman Jonathan Pie has been sacked by the BBC. Shock, horror. Mr Pie has gone on the road to explain to his faithful followers how it all went wrong. And this is the vehicle he uses to share all the political vitriol that you would expect. And there’s no doubt, the show is packed with horrifyingly accurate political insights and observations that make us all cringe and despair about the quality of our political leaders. It also asks interesting questions on how a public figure can fall from hero to zero with one misplaced quote, one moment where their guard was let down and they reveal an aspect of their personality that is unpalatable to the general public. The current discourse about the Prince Andrew Newsnight interview is a great real life equivalent.
Despite all these good intentions and a strong performance, I must confess, gentle reader, to feeling a little disappointed. What works incredibly well in a four-minute video, when delivered at a frantic pace for over an hour, becomes what Mrs C calls relentless. After a while you start to feel mentally tired, and you find you’re no longer concentrating on what he says. There’s very little light-and-shade to the performance, and Pie’s own personal anger at the world – even occasionally at his family – rather overwhelms the whole show. You also get the sense that the show is scripted to the nth degree, and that nothing would move him from his prearranged routine. That kind of lecture can feel imprisoning rather than enlightening. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but this wasn’t quite it. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to enjoy and laugh at in this show; but we all were hoping for just a little more. There are four more shows left in his UK tour – in Peterborough, Bournemouth, Bath and Plymouth; go see for yourself and make your own mind up!